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Rudy Tomjanovich
Rudy T Space and Missile Center Feb 26, 2009.jpg
Rudy T. in February 2009
Born November 24, 1948 (1948-11-24) (age 61)
Hamtramck, Michigan
Nationality USA
Listed height 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)
Listed weight 218 lb (99 kg)
College University of Michigan
Draft 2nd overall, 1970
San Diego Rockets
Pro career 1970–1981
Former teams San Diego Rockets/Houston Rockets (1970–1981)
Awards 5-time NBA All-Star

2-time NBA champion as a Coach

Rudolph Tomjanovich, Jr. (born November 24, 1948), nicknamed Rudy T., is an American former basketball player and coach who led the Houston Rockets to two NBA Championships. He is currently a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers.




Early life

Tomjanovich was born in Hamtramck, Michigan to an American family of Croatian descent. He attended high school in Hamtramck and later the University of Michigan (from 1967 to 1970).

Playing career

In college, Tomjanovich set Michigan Wolverines men's basketball career rebounding records that continue to stand.[1] In 1968 he earned second team All-Big Ten honors, which he followed with first-team honors in 1969 and 1970.[2] During 1970 he was also an All-American.[3]

Tomjanovich was selected in the 1970 NBA Draft as the second overall pick by the San Diego Rockets (the franchise relocated to Houston in 1971), for whom he would play the entirety of his NBA career. He was also drafted in both 1970[4] and 1974[5] by the Utah Stars of the ABA. In his eleven years in the NBA, Tomjanovich had a scoring average of 17.4 points and a rebounding average of 8.1, earning five All-Star Game selections in the process (1974–1977, 1979). He is the third-leading scorer in Rockets history behind Hall of Famers Calvin Murphy and Hakeem Olajuwon. Because his last name was so long, the back of Tomjanovich's jerseys would read "RUDY T.", rather than his 11 character name.

The Rockets retired Tomjanovich's #45 jersey upon the conclusion of his playing career. His collegiate jersey, also #45, was retired by the University of Michigan in 2003.

The Kermit Washington incident

Despite Tomjanovich's noteworthy career as a player, he is perhaps best remembered for an infamous incident that occurred at the height of his playing career. In a December 9, 1977 game, the Los Angeles Lakers' Kermit Washington threw a punch during an on-court melee which struck Tomjanovich. The blow shattered the bones of Tomjanovich's jaw and face and inflicted life-threatening head injuries, leaving him sidelined for five months. He eventually made a full recovery. Although with the punch came much pain both physically and mentally for Tomjanovich, during his first year back he looked to be the all-star he always was, but after that year his career slowly came to a halt and was forced to retire in his mid-thirties. The story and aftermath are recounted in the John Feinstein book The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever.

Coaching career

Houston Rockets

Tomjanovich retired in 1981 and became a scout for two years before being named an assistant coach in 1983. He served as an assistant under Bill Fitch and Don Chaney.

Tomjanovich was named the Rockets' interim head coach in February, 1992 after Chaney's resignation. After nearly leading the Rockets to a playoff berth, he was given the job on a permanent basis.

In his first full season on the job (1992-93), Tomjanovich guided the Rockets to the Midwest Division title, making him the first head coach to ever take his team from the lottery to a division crown during his first full season. Building on this success, Rudy T. led the team to back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. On the playoff run to their second title, the Rockets became the lowest seed (sixth) to win one, and the only team in history to defeat the teams with the four best regular season records in the playoffs. It was on the floor of The Summit after they captured their second title that Rudy proclaimed, "Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion!" In his 11-plus season tenure as Rockets head coach, he posted a 503–397 (.559) regular-season record and a 51–39 (.567) playoff mark. His career wins and winning percentage are Rockets franchise records. Tomjanovich left the team after the 2002-03 season when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer, ending a 33-year association with the Rockets franchise--including its first 32 years in Houston--as a player, assistant coach and head coach.

U.S. national basketball team

In 1998, Tomjanovich volunteered to coach the U.S. men's senior basketball team at the FIBA World Championship in Greece. Despite the absence of NBA players due to labor negotiations, Tomjanovich guided the hastily assembled group of CBA players to the bronze medal. In light of his outstanding service in coaching at the 1998 Worlds and his stellar professional resume, Tomjanovich was tabbed to coach the U.S. men's senior team at the Games of the XXVII Olympiad in Sydney, Australia. The U.S. Team won the gold medal with an 8–0 record. On February 15, 2006, Tomjanovich was named director of scouting for USA Men's Basketball.

Los Angeles Lakers

In 2004, Tomjanovich took over as the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, replacing Phil Jackson. After just 41 games, he resigned due to health issues unrelated to his past bout with bladder cancer. Tomjanovich stayed with the Lakers as a consultant.

Coaching style

Tomjanovich was well-known for his instinctive managerial style and intensity on the bench. Always self-deprecating, he nonetheless heaped tremendous pressure on himself and his assistants to be prepared for each game, several times being hospitalized for exhaustion. After winning back-to-back titles, Tomjanovich deflected much of the praise and eschewed the "genius" label assigned to other champion coaches like Chuck Daly and Phil Jackson. His hands-off, easy-going manner with his players gave him a reputation as a "players coach," and as such veteran players were eager to play on his teams. Among the stars who requested and were granted trades to Houston during his tenure were Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, and Scottie Pippen.

Off the court

Tomjanovich has participated with the Texas Children's Cancer Center to help raise funds for cancer research. He has also helped promote a deadbolt called the "Ultimate Lock" and CieAura health care products.[6]

Coaching record

Regular season   G Games coached   W Games won   L Games lost
Post season  PG  Games coached  PW  Games won  PL  Games lost
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL Result
Houston 1991–92 30 16 14 .533 3rd in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Houston 1992–93 82 55 27 .671 1st in Midwest 12 6 6 Second Round
Houston 1993–94 82 58 24 .707 1st in Midwest 23 15 8 NBA Champions
Houston 1994–95 82 47 35 .573 3rd in Midwest 22 15 7 NBA Champions
Houston 1995–96 82 48 34 .585 3rd in Midwest 8 3 5 Second Round
Houston 1996–97 82 57 25 .695 2nd in Midwest 16 9 7 Conference Finals
Houston 1997–98 82 41 41 .500 4th in Midwest 5 2 3 First Round
Houston 1998–99 50 31 19 .620 3rd in Midwest 4 1 3 First Round
Houston 1999–00 82 34 48 .415 6th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Houston 2000–01 82 45 37 .549 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Houston 2001–02 82 28 54 .341 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Houston 2002–03 82 43 39 .524 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
LA Lakers 2004–05 43 24 19 .558 4th in Pacific Missed Playoffs
Career 943 527 416 .559 90 51 39


  • NBA Champion head coach (1994, 1995)
  • Head coach of the gold medalist USA men's basketball team at the 2000 Summer Olympics
  • Head coach of the bronze medalist USA men's basketball team at the 1998 FIBA World Championship
  • Five-time NBA All-Star (1974–1977, 1979)
  • NCAA All-American (1970)
  • All-time University of Michigan leader in rebounds. Second on UM all-time list in points per game
  • Holds the Crisler Arena single game scoring and rebounding records
  • Averaged 17.4 points per game on 50.1% shooting during his NBA career

See also


  1. ^ 2007-08 Men's Basketball Media Guide. University of Michigan. 2007. p. 166. 
  2. ^ 2007-08 Men's Basketball Media Guide. University of Michigan. 2007. p. 147. 
  3. ^ 2007-08 Men's Basketball Media Guide. University of Michigan. 2007. p. 145. 
  4. ^ 1970 ABA Draft
  5. ^ 1974 ABA Draft
  6. ^ Jonathan Feigen. "Rudy T's new calling helps others". Houston Chronicle. September 21, 2009. Retrieved on March 7, 2010.


  • Feinstein, John. The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever. Publisher: Back Bay Books. ISBN 0-316-73563-9

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Don Chaney
Houston Rockets head coach
Succeeded by
Jeff Van Gundy
Preceded by
Phil Jackson
Los Angeles Lakers head coach
Succeeded by
Frank Hamblen


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Rudolph Tomjanovich, Jr. (born 1948-11-24), nicknamed Rudy T, is an American basketball player and coach who won two NBA Championships as the head coach of the Houston Rockets, in 1994 and 1995


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